Day 29. Monday, March 24, Durban, South Africa

The Crystal Symphony is in Port Kelang(Kuala Lampur). The MS Amsterdam is in La Possession, Reunion Island.

I think our first day in South Africa was frustrating for many people. It started out good with about a 7-lap walk ending with the rising of the sun. In his Sunday Update Captain Vorland had said the pilot was scheduled for 6AM and he was hoping it would be a bit earlier. By about 6:45 I realized we were drifting aimlessly outside the harbor. About 7AM there was an announcement that the pilot had rescheduled for 6:30 and had not yet shown up. The pilot finally arrived about 7:30 and we were securing to the dock about 8:15. The first tours were scheduled for 7AM, and people needed to meet with Immigration before leaving the ship. I was scheduled for 8AM Immigration and an 8:45 tour. I queued for inspection about 8:45. A shore excursions representative was stationed at the end of the immigration line looking at tickets and telling people either to proceed directly to the gangway or which lounge to go to. My 8:45 tour was actually called about 9:15, and the bus left about 9:45. An annoying but bearable hitch for me but I think some overland tours had flights to catch to distant game reserves.

My tour was “Voluntourism Adventure:SOS Children’s Village”. Some of these tours are real hands on contributions to local life and some are more of a familiarization with charitable activities around the world. This was in the latter category. The SOS Children’s Village is in Pietermaritzburg, about 40 miles inland from Durban. The program has 2 facets and we got a view of both of them. First was the “Family Strengthening Program”, effectively a day care and support program. The majority of the adults in this region are HIV positive, and many children live with parents who are seriously inn and unable to properly care for them. The program provides them with nutritional, medical, educational, and counseling services to about 350 youth. We visited the center and the “War Room” where cases are reviewed weekly. We also visited the garden with a space where mushrooms were grown and a vegetable garden that had just been damaged by a storm.

The residential program serves about 150 youth, in 15 cottages, each holding about 10 children in double rooms. Each cottage has a lounge, kitchen, and dining area along with a “mother” and assistant. The youth (mostly in school during our visit) are all assigned regular chores and do their own laundry and cooking. The youth stay in the program until they can be self sufficient and think of the staff as their families, with pictures of alumni prominently displayed.

While at the village we were served tea in a little pavilion and a few youth who had just returned from school did a dance for us. We left the Village about 1 and returned to the ship for a late lunch.

There did not seem to be much at the pier and the area served by the shuttle did not sound very interesting, so I spent the afternoon relaxing on the ship.

The port call that started with little regard to punctuality seemed to end much the same way. While we left 20 minutes ahead of schedule from Port Louis, there was no activity as our 6PM departure approached. Captain Vorland came on the air about 5:55 and advised officials were still stamping some passports and that the pilot had not arrived, but we would be under way as soon as possible. It appeared from the dining room that we left the dock about 6:45.

With 200 cruisers away on safari the ship is even less crowded than usual. We had just one show at 7:45. Peter Cutler sang, played the piano, and did some tap dancing. He was pretty good.

As today’s parting shot, this is my 3rd visit to South Africa, but I’ve seen things that I wasn’t exposed to on my previous visits. While progress is being made against HIV, having the majority of the adult population affected puts a severe strain on the country. Especially for the innocent children, a real solution is truly needed.


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